It is in someways a sad thing that cycling is becoming increasingly stat obsessed. All modern sports are it seems – whether it be through supplements in newspapers inviting us to download apps to view how many meters rugby players make or the stat-crazy football pundits dredging up the last time whatever team there commentating on came down from their present 7-0 down situation or some other pointless tit bit. Cycling is no different – when we ride our bikes we can now goggle at our heart rate, speed, cadence, power, the gradient we’re riding on, the temperature, the elevation… the list rolls ever onwards. Similarly, armchair pundits are increasingly obsessed with the data generated in races. In the early noughties, some riders used to have live stream heart rate monitors during the Tour – that seems to have stopped – but spectators still indulge in analyzing average speeds, speeds up climbs and purported power outputs. In a sport where being a fan means generally trying to prove you know more about the sport then anyone else, stats are important. So where are the best places to find them?
CQ Ranking – http://www.cqranking.com/
The Cycling Quotient (CQ) Ranking site is a good place to start. The site is effectively a database of all the worldwide races and teams, and will give you a short list of results for just about any race you can think of. Where it really delivers is in its ranking system, as the name suggests, which, in its own words, is a ‘non-official successor of the UCI-ranking which disappeared when the ProTour was introduced in 2005.’
Now, nobody can ever agree on the right way of producing a World Ranking, as I’ve written on here before (https://sicycle.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/a-history-of-season-long-competitions-all-the-winners-1948-2012/) , but the UCI World Ranking was a strong contender for a popular approach, even if it did confusingly clash with the the UCI’s own World Cup ranking, which was essentially a one day competition split over twelve races. The UCI World Ranking took into account the last three years of a rider’s career – for instance, if you won the Tour de France, you would get, say, 100 points, but if you won it again the next year, you would get credit for having won it the year before as well, although the points lost half their value. This meant riders could have a great year then a rubbish one but not collapse down the rankings.
The CQ system is a tweaked version of this. Races are still ranked and distinguished based on their prestige and difficulty, with a sliding scale of points available for each. Points are also available for holding leaders jerseys, as well as for multiple stage wins. The ranking is however based on a 12 month rolling period. As a result, having a great year does not count towards future years, and the points suffer accordingly.
You thus get a simple ranking for every rider, which is usually pretty good, to the point that various team managers have admitted using the site to look up prospective riders. You can access all of a riders results/placings from each year they have been active, as well as view the official pictures of them. You can also look at a teams year results, and the option to look at all podium results helps sort out what a team has succeeded in doing. There is also a women’s version, and you can compare and contrast riders using a head to head feature. All in all, CQ is a solid database, best for finding out results and placings of riders in a hurry. However, it does suffer from being relatively new (stats only go back to the late 1990s) and from comparison with…
ProCycling Stats – http://www.procyclingstats.com/
ProCycling Stats (PCS) is sort of the pumped up version of CQ Ranking – a slightly more aesthetically pleasing, deeper and altogether more accessible platform that breaks down the statistics into a more easily recoginsable format. For instance, whilst CQ does offer an option to rank riders just by, say, Sprint stages, Time trials or mountain stages, it is somewhat buried away in the structure and not immediately evident in the manner that the stats on PCS are. For example, the rider pages offer two great at-a-glance features that CQ lacks – it breaks down the points a rider has accrued into One-day, GC, Sprint and time trial classifications, and gives a brief summary of each riders top results. The number of professional wins is also given, as is the Grand Tours and Classics the rider has ridden, plus their best position in a stage and the overall.
PCS does also have a ranking system, which is unfortunately self defeating thanks to the fact it is a rolling 365 rank, and that all points from the previous year are summed, rather than replaced as per CQ ranking. It is also produced every month, which means that there are 12 rankings for each year. This is slightly pointless in November and December, given there isn’t any racing, and also makes for some odd rankings. For instance, Bradley Wiggins, the preominent rider of 2012, only topped the rankings once, in August, whilst the first three months of that year were ruled by Philippe Gilbert on the basis of his previous wonder year, despite the rise of Tom Boonen and Gilberts own failing form. Still, it’s a reasonable system, and more then made up for by the excellent rider profiles.
Most impressive though is arguably the fact that the system goes back to, well, some way – to the point where it can offer comparisons of the ‘top seasons’ had by riders, which unsurprisingly is dominated by Eddy Merckx, who has 6/10 including the top 4. It also compares riders such as Fausto Coppi and the like in an ‘All-Time Ranking’, which again is obviously topped by Merckx but places men like Fabian Cancellara as the 10th best rider of all time just ahead of Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen in 11th and 12th respectively. This is interesting for discussion at least, even if it doesn’t seem to sit quite right when it claims that Tyler Farrar is a better rider then Djamoldine Abduzhaparov and that Ivan Basso’s career trumps that of Triple Crown winner Stephen Roche. Still, that’s half the fun of cycling I guess.
Yes, its cycling, so doping inevitably comes up somewhere. If I said PCS was the pumped up version of CQ, then this is actual drugged up version, dedicated not to race results but simply if a rider has been on the juice.
Dopeology attempts to list every doping incident and offense that has occured since 1980, and allows a search by rider, event or even product. Thus, you can have a look at who exactly has tested positive for EPO, or look at who is involved in certain incidents. Impressively, this is all backed up by sources as well, creating a strong primary/secondary source base, although you do occasionally have to be careful. For instance, the idea that someone has ‘never tested positive’ and all the inferences drawn from that does mean something on the site, as in blind allegations lacking in truth or evidence do not get on the site, although things such as the Manatova investigation includes the name of Damiano Cunego. Saying that, Andy Schleck, a rider the internet seems convinced is a cheat, doesn’t have a page due to there being no evidence, but putting in his name does bring up plenty of stuff about his brother Frank. The site is also seemingly keen to avoid possible litigation – there are some interesting examples of certain riders who do not have certain products named against them that they should, which evidently I don’t want to be sued for either so I won’t bring it up!
So Dopeology is good fun for a browse around who has taken what, especially in an age when a number of riders are back after bans such as David Millar, Michele Scarponi, Ivan Basso and the like.
Climbing Records – http://http://www.climbing-records.com/
Run by a blogger called Mihai Simion, Climbing Records is a blogspot-esque page where Simion runs a stopwatch to record the climbing times of various riders up a variety of climbs, ranging from the tiny to the mythical. He updates the climbs whenever the riders goes up, highlighting the new times in the record if they appear. It is a little tricky to navigate, but the depth of historical knowledge it can open up and allow if you want to do some comparison is great.
Climbing Times – http://tour-manager.freehostia.com/climbingtimes.htm
In a similar vain to Climbing Records, climbing times tries to rank riders based on their Watts per Kilo performance, given that metric is infamous with success, especially thanks to Lance Armstrong’s much aimed for 6.7 figure supposedly being enough to conquer the Tour. The site is aiming to provide a database of such a stats, as well as, it claims, hopefully adding VAM and other data, though it could do with a bit of explanation as to how it has got these figures. The armchair scientist is quickly becoming a problem in what I’d call ‘social media doping’ – where someone decides a rider is guilty of doping based on some tenuous calculations.
An example is the Antoine Vayer book ‘Not Normal’, which I’ll review later, which claims to use ‘performance data’ as an indicator of doping. It has a flood of information on how they calculated the data they use to claim wattages and Watts per kilo figures, but no real explanation as to how it came up with the ‘suspicious’, ‘miraculous’ and ‘mutant’ performance categories it creates, nor why riders who have admitted doping have performances that don’t come into these categories. There is much to be said about this approach, as hopefully I’ll get to write at some point, but the use if sites like climbing times will probably lead to an increase in so called ‘performance doping’ indicators.